In Contempt, Godard’s unique use of cinematography toys with and maybe even pokes fun at the action of filmmaking and many of its aspects.
This is most evident in the first scene when Camille questions Paul as to whether he loves every bit of her. Godard’s experimenting with the scene’s tonality—twice changing the tone of color of the scene, from red, to light, to dark—can surely be seen as a metaphor of the couple’s tumultuous relationship and its inevitable course. But what may not seem evident at first is the idea that Godard is playing with his cinematographical choices here, seeing what effect painting the scene red, light or dark can have on the viewer, while also possibly poking fun and/or paying homage to these same stylistic choices made by other filmmakers. He is blatantly establishing that what we are watching is filmmaking, which highlights how any choice of his can have a unique effect on us.
Other unique uses of cinematography employed in Contempt that play with formal expectations can be seen in the scenario when Paul and Camille converse and argue in their apartment. Effective use of perspective and wide-angle focal length place Paul and Camille in different places in each shot, each character switching back and forth from dominance to submissiveness as it pertains to their ongoing dialogue. When Paul is in a shaky emotional state at one point in their conversation, his legs (while he is sitting on the toilet) seem many yards away, when in reality he is only a few feet away. This is a shrewd way of displaying his emotional dejection.
Godard’s style in Contempt is interesting in that one feels that almost every filmmaking choice he made was intentional—when watching such a unique piece, one feels that each decision demands (and has) an explanation.